I was highly anticipating this book for the lesbian queen and her demisexual spymaster and the high-stakes political intrigue surrounding them, and that was exactly what Queen of Coin and Whispers delivered!
‘She loved me as I loved her, fierce as a bloodied blade.’
When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.
Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?
In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other …
I received an ARC and reviewed honestly and voluntarily.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Content warnings include: murder, drugging, unconsensual kissing, abduction, torture, solitary confinement and sensory deprivation (off-page), self-harm, sex off-page.
The biggest regret I have about this book is that for all that I loved the widely spun, complicated and twisted net of court intrigue, blackmail, machinations, betrayal and treason…. I wasn’t able to follow most of it. I’m tempted to say there was a lot of showing instead of telling, except for the most part I simply couldn’t tell what I was being shown. I couldn’t interpret and often didn’t even notice the clues the characters followed.
Despite that, I had a good time reading the book. The atmosphere was there, even if it wasn’t a happy one. Reading about Lia being pushed closer and closer to the breaking point as she takes over the throne and tries to do her best – make her father proud without following in her uncle’s footsteps, fighting for change, acknowledgement and support while keeping everyone happy – was as fascinating as it was stomach-twisting.
Xania was my favourite character between the two protagonists. I did not just like her being the Master of Whispers and working as spymaster, I particularly loved how it integrated with her work in the royal treasury (hence the Coin part of the book’s title.) It was a clever combination that I found ingenius. I would have liked a heavier focus on that part of her job, though I understand why it wasn’t.
Timeline wise, there were quite a few timeskips. The main plotline spans pretty much an entire year, with the biggest chunk playing in the first half to three quarters. As such, the book is a collection of scenes set within that year. It’s linearly told, and not exactly disconnected, but I would have liked a slightly slower pace, because as it was I was often left wondering about the immediate effects of the characters’ actions, and a lot of the details that I found interesting about being a queen and a spymaster were glossed over.
I also have to say that I had a bit of a hard time getting a hang of the dynamics between the characters. Again, there wasn’t a lot of telling, and while there were clues given for the showing it wasn’t quite enough to paint a coherent picture for me. The best example for this was Matthias – it took countless chapters for me to figure out who he even was and why he was so close to both protagonists, and the exact hows and whys weren’t revealed until the last few chapters, and even then questions remained.
There were a lot of interesting side characters that I wished had played a bigger role or gotten some sort of closure in the end. However, the entire ending felt rushed. Big things happen but are mostly glossed over, with a lot of time skips and personally impactful events that aren’t really addressed.
The epilogue was still satisfying and tied things up, but I would have liked the entire last third of the book to be told slower to give the monumental development of the plot time to unfold and settle, or to have it be a bit calmer.
Overall, Queen of Coin and Whispers gave me exactly what I was hoping to get from it. Lia and Xania were lovely, and reading about them navigating the figurative minefield of their court was never boring.